Researchers at Canada's Western University and Suncor have teamed up to produce serological test kits for Covis-19. PhD candidates Daniel Giguere and Sam Slattery are developing algae as a production factory to make the necessary proteins to identify COVID-19 antibodies in people who were previously infected with the disease.
Large-scale development of serological tests is limited by the ability to make significant quantities of the viral proteins on a cost-effective basis. Current tests rely on proteins made in reagents such as insect or mammalian cells which are expensive and difficult to scale. Algae are cheap to grow and can easily be engineered to produce the viral proteins.
"We are using a microalgae that shows a lot of promise for not only producing the protein needed, but producing it with the correct modifications to mimic how it's made in humans," Giguere said. Slattery added that they are leveraging their in-house expertise and technology to rapidly produce the proteins and validate their effectiveness as a testing reagent.